Home 2017 Races The Case for Perriello is Stronger than the Washington Post Article Suggests

The Case for Perriello is Stronger than the Washington Post Article Suggests


The Washington Post article that Lowell includes in today’s news summary is quite informative. But in some crucial ways it’s also misleading.

The article does a good job of showing that Ralph Northam, in his years as Lieutenant Governor, has built up a reservoir of gratitude among Democratic political leaders in Virginia. However, the article failed to indicate that Northam’s abundance of endorsements from establishment figures was already in place before anyone knew the nomination would be contested.

That omission, which leaves the reader with the impression that those Democratic politicians chose Northam over Perriello, borders on journalistic malpractice.

A second failure in the article concerns Northam including an anti-Trump message in his campaign rhetoric. The article fails to note what a “Johnny-come-lately” Northam was in addressing the extraordinary political crisis of our times. It was only after Tom Perriello, who is clearly moved by the emergency of this political moment, had struck a chord with the activated Democratic base that Northam decided to adopt the anti-Trump theme.

My own main abiding issue is climate change and the environment. (When I ran against State Senator Mark Obenshain in 2015, he accused me of being a “full-time climate activist.” That statement by Obenshain, at least, was true.)

Tom Perriello’s commitment to addressing environmental issues in general and climate change in particular has been consistent and impassioned. The same cannot be said of Ralph Northam.

Whereas Perriello has spoken out against construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Northam has not.

And Perriello has shown a concern about the undue influence of Dominion Power over Virginia’s elected officials that Northam has not matched.

If Ralph Northam becomes the nominee, I will of course support him over any conceivable Republican opponent. However, any person who, back in 2004, could imagine that it was right to support George W. Bush for a second term (as Northam has said he did) would seem not to have the reliable moral compass or political antennae I want in my Governor.

From what I can see, Tom Perriello does.

  • lesliesu123

    Is Tom “clearly moved by the emergency of this political movement”? Or did he lose his job and decided running for Governor was the place to start? I’m not doubting that Tom has merit, but Ralph Northam has been doing the hard work in Virginia while Tom has not. And let’s not forget…Perriello voted for the odious Stupak amendment, a dramatic extension of the infamous Hyde amendment. The Stupak amendment would’ve prohibited insurance companies that participate in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges from covering abortion…not to mention his “A” rating from the NRA! Ralph Northam has my vote!

    • Proud Union Member

      The NRA has moved away from Perriello because of his voting record on common sense gun laws. The NRA is all about what is good for business not protecting gun owners. They have not endorsed him as a candidate for Governor. Northam was the only dem to vote against the dock builders in Norfolk and cost them their workers comp. Worse he was the tie breaking vote. Add to that how he voted for Bush twice and the fact that Dominion owns him. I’ll gladly take Perriello!

    • JodyM

      “Tom Perriello has been a global champion of womens’ rights. Advocates rightly have concerns about Tom’s vote on the Stupak amendment during the ACA debate, but to focus on that vote is to miss out on Tom’s decades of work on behalf of womens rights.”

  • GailGD

    I don’t trust Perriello anymore. I initially supported him and even donated to his congressional campaign although I am not in his district. Then I watched him vote – against abortion rights and for easy access to guns. I watched him lose the next race for Congress because he only rode in on Obama’s coattails in the first place. He has no charm or charisma and is an opportunist. I’m sticking with Ralph. To call Ralph a “Johnny come lately” after Perriello’s two faced actions on choice and guns is outrageous. And where does the writer of this nonsense get off calling the WaPo article “journalist malpractice?” The stuff I’m reading here is amateurish. The author should be embarrassed. To say that “Northam’s abundance of endorsements from establishment figures was already in place before anyone knew the nomination would be contested” like it’s a bad thing just shows petty Perriello’s team has become. I could just as easily point out that Perriello isn’t good enough to change anyone’s mind. His “Johnny come lately” entry into the race after he suddenly found himself without prospects in a Clinton administration has revealed his true character.

    • Julie Hensley

      Thank you, Gail.

  • April Moore

    I would hope that we Democrats can conduct this contest in a manner that leaves every Democrat willing to support the nominee, even if that candidate is not the one we preferred. In writing what I wrote, I tried to stay within those lines, as best I could see them. If Northam wins the primary, I hope that all Perriello supporters will give their strong support to Northam.

    A few points that seem to me to distort the picture, and that I would like to correct:

    First, while it is true that Perriello is a Johnny-come-lately to this race, at least compared to Northam, who declared early, it is also true that when it comes to making an issue of the disaster that is Trump it is Perriello who put it front and center and Northam who came late to the party.

    Second, I agree that some of Perriello’s votes are not what we’d want from a progressive Democrat. But the overall picture, for progressive Democrats, is strong and encouraging. And I expect that as governor he’d pretty consistently do the right things.

    Third, in terms of journalistic malpractice, perhaps the language is too strong. But the main thrust of this article is about the endorsements. And the crucial fact that the article left out—which would make clear that these people did not choose between the two candidates–gives the reader a misleading impression about the meaning of those endorsements. Whether it’s malpractice or not, it surely falls short of good journalism.

    Fourth, I don’t know whether Mr. Perriello was expecting to be appointed to head an agency or a cabinet department, or not. But if he was, I can see nothing wrong with his asking himself – after Trump’s victory disappointed any such hope – “Where now is the best place I can make a contribution, especially in view of the crisis that Trump’s victory has placed the nation?” and coming up with running for governor as a sensible answer.

    We need strong voices to lead is through these times.

    I am not sure what you mean to say about Perriello when you call him an opportunist. Any principled politician who believes in working to advance his values should be looking for opportunities. I expect that Perriello was right to see a good opportunity in this governor’s race. And if he was, that is to his credit for we will need leadership that is good at seeing the battlefield and that knows how to seize the opportunities that present themselves for moving things forward.

    • GailGD

      You continue to assume that those who endorsed Northam “didn’t have a choice.” That is where your logic falls apart. They have a choice RIGHT NOW. They could withdraw their endorsement of Northam and switch to Perriello, but they aren’t doing that. You know why. Northam is the better candidate for Virginia. Perriello is a fine person for a job at the national level.

      • Andy Schmookler

        The idea that “they could withdraw their endorsement of Northam and switch to Perriello” is literally correct but politically way off base. In politics, such a switch happens very rarely– and for good reason. It is not just that it looks bad to the public, though it does. More important, it debases the currency of a politician’s word. Essential to the political life is the formation of alliances, and essential to that is for the other politicians one works with to trust that when you tell them they can count on you, you deliver on your commitment.

        So yes, the people who were already committed to supporting Northam would not violate any law if they switched. But the costs of such a switch would be so high that no sensible person would do it, even if they prefer Perriello.

        As Lowell says, both are good men. So it’s not as though some huge negative — like a Hollywood Access tape — has made it necessary to jump ship. And I would not expect any of them to do so.

        Where any softening of the commitment would become visible — and subtly enough that it would be visible only to one studying the scene — is that one of those endorsers might not work so hard to advance Northam’s cause.

  • Julie Hensley

    I guess your moral compass doesn’t include abortion or reasonable gun control? Because Perriello is the darling of the NRA with a 100% score. No report on whether him turning on them and calling them nutjobs affects his extraordinary voting record supporting NRA. Or how about his stance on abortion? A Dem that voted for HYDE ACT? If you are going to hold Northam to his screw ups in 2004 I would think you’d hold Perriello to his screw ups in 2009. This is a horrible article. Congratulations.

    • You’re correct that Tom Perriello used to receive “A” ratings from the NRA, but I’d also note that Ralph Northam received a 100% rating from the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) in 2013 (see http://votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/90253/ralph-northam#.WNMhPPnyvIU). Also, Tom has referred to the NRA as a “nutjob, extremist organization,” so obviously he and the NRA no longer see eye to eye…

      As for abortion, Tom Perriello received a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice American in 2010 (http://votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/109344/tom-perriello#.WNMhofnyvIU) and a 100% National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association – House of Representatives Score in 2009-2010. Ralph Northam has also received 100% ratings on this issue (http://votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/90253/ralph-northam#.WNMiDvkrLIV).

      Bottom line: these are both good men and good Democrats. I really wish people would just make the argument FOR their candidate and focus on attacking Republicans, not forming a circular firing squad…

      • Julie Hensley

        I don’t disagree that they are both good men. Sorry, that vote for Stupak is not something that makes someone a good Democrat. Perhaps they can still claim the title Dem but not good.

        • I disagree strongly with Tom’s Stupak vote, also disagree strongly with Ralph Northam voting twice for Dubya. I maintain that these are both good men and good Dems, either one of whom will make an infinitely better governor of Virginia than Ed Gillespie.

          • GailGD

            Northam’s vote for Dubya was as a private citizen representing himself. Perriello’s vote for the Stupak amendment was as a member of Congress representing his constituents. There is a huge difference between the two.

    • By the way, April Moore is a super-strong progressive, certainly on abortion and gun control. Claiming that her “moral compass” doesn’t include those things is really out of linfe, given that she’s fought for years – including running for Virgiinia State Senate against right-wing nutjob Mark Obenshain – for all these things we care deeply about.

  • wwfleming

    There seem to be strong parallels between the Hillary/Bernie race and the Northam/Perriello race. Both Hillary and Northam sewed up endorsements from the entrenched and established Democratic elite before an opponent with much more progressive colors entered the race. A cautionary tale?

    Northam has much more time in the General Assembly, but the shenanigans this past session show that this does not mean much with regard to cooperation or collaboration with the Republicans in the General Assembly.

  • JodyM

    “Tom Perriello has been a global champion of womens’ rights. Advocates rightly have concerns about Tom’s vote on the Stupak amendment during the ACA debate, but to focus on that vote is to miss out on Tom’s decades of work on behalf of womens rights.”

    Many Previously Pro-Choice Dems Voted for Stupak Amendment https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/many-previously-pro-choice-dems-voted/